Euro Daily: July 11th, 2021
The European Championship final showpiece will play out later today, with England and Italy set to vie it out for the title of the continent’s finest international outfit.
Below, check out six things you need to know about Sunday’s action.
1) Coming home or coming Rome? England’s historic night
The big one. England’s chance to put over half a century’s worth of hurt and missed chances firmly behind them.
The Three Lions, amid a stellar summer to date, now require just one more victory to clinch a first-ever European Championship crown, and the nation’s first piece of silverware since the World Cup all the way back in 1966.
If Gareth Southgate’s men do manage to get the job done later today, they will become the first country to secure Euros glory on home soil since France all the way back in 1984. The advantage of a roaring Wembley crowd could well prove key for the English, with no fewer than 60,000 expected to make their way to the capital over the coming hours.
Is football finally set to come ‘home’?
2) Pirlo’s Panenka & Head-to-head
Or could it instead head to Rome, as fans of England’s upcoming opponents have so vehemently assured over the course of the last week.
Italy are of course in the midst of an absolutely staggering stretch of form, having not fallen to defeat in a single one of the country’s last 33 outings across all competitions. This includes a hefty 16 consecutive Euro 2020 victories – ten in qualifying, and a further six across the tournament proper to date.
And if history is anything to go by, then the Azzurri will no doubt be confident of making 17 at Wembley tonight. Throughout their respective international histories, Italy and England have gone head to head on 27 occasions. The former boast the advantage as things stand, having emerged victorious 11 times. England, on the other hand, have secured 8 wins, with the remaining 8 meetings having ended in stalemate.
The two most recent competitive showdowns between the nations, meanwhile, saw tonight’s visitors add to their positive record against the Three Lions. The latter came in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup, when ex-Manchester City and Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli bagged the winner.
And prior to that came a clash since widely remembered for a masterclass on the part of Andrea Pirlo. The Azzurri icon, despite having been 33, absolutely ran the show from his berth in the middle of the park, out-thinking, out-fighting and frankly out-classing his Three Lions counterparts. Not only that, but Pirlo capped off his Man of the Match display with a remarkable Panenka finish beyond Joe Hart during the ensuing penalty shootout, guiding Italy to a Euro 2012 quarter-final berth at England’s expense.
An icon across the continent…
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) July 10, 2021
3) Chelsea & Juve stars to join exclusive clubs
Turning our attentions to the individuals expected to light up this evening’s action in London, Italy’s star defensive pairing will be eyeing a piece of history.
If both Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, as expected, are included from the off versus England, they will join an exclusive group of players in the competition’s history to have featured in a pair of separate European Championship finals. This comes after the Juventus pair also took to the pitch en route to an eventual 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain in 2012.
Elsewhere, though, there will also be a quartet of Chelsea players hopeful of etching their respective names into the history books on Sunday.
Blues stars Jorginho, Mason Mount, Reece James and Ben Chilwell of course all played their parts in the club clinching Champions League glory back in May, courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Manchster City. In turn, no matter the outcome this evening, at least one member of Thomas Tuchel’s squad is guaranteed to join a list of just nine players to have featured on the winning side in both the Champions League & European Championship finals in the same summer.
The last? Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe in 2016.
4) Simulation continues to take the headlines
Moving onto one of the less positive headlines to have taken centre stage in the media ahead of Sunday’s showdown, we must unfortunately highlight the topic of simulation.
The antics of Italy’s stars, in particular Ciro Immobile, en route to ousting Belgium in the competition’s Round-of-16 last week, of course resulted in something of a backlash, with English legend Alan Shearer having gone as far as to label the Lazio hitman ‘pathetic’.
“I don’t even want to laugh at that because that’s pathetic!”
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) July 2, 2021
Just days later, though, Shearer’s England were caught up in a diving scandal of their own.
The Three Lions’ semi-final showdown with Denmark was eventually decided from the penalty spot (albeit on the rebound), after Raheem Sterling was adjudged to have been felled in the Danish area. Subsequent replays, though, showcased the fact that contact with the Manchester City attacker was minimal at best, sparking fury across the continent.
Even the aforementioned Shearer went on to reveal his opinion that the awarding of the spot-kick was ‘soft’.
Could theatrics again prove to be decisive at Wembley tonight?
5) Midfield battle the key
Whilst those in the attacking third – including Immobile and Sterling – will of course go on to play a crucial role this evening, the most important area on the pitch when it comes to the eventual outcome between Italy and England, in all likelihood, will be the middle of the park.
The former’s midfield trio, for the first time not only this summer, but in recent memory, were completely outplayed last time out, versus Spain. Betting on Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella to come up short twice in the space of a week, though, would be unwise.
The Azzurri’s gifted midfield operators are the central cog in the country’s success, and could well fancy their chances up against the pairing of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips. Whilst England’s midfield two have also enjoyed a fine tournament to date, their more physical stylings (taking nothing away from the abilities possessed by the duo) could be taken advantage of by Italy, in a way that the more technical pairing of Sergio Busquets and Pedri were not.
Mason Mount, an always willing worker, will need to provide plenty of help to his more defensive-minded partners in the middle of the park at Wembley, or England run the risk of simply being overrun centrally.
If Gareth Southgate’s men can ultimately stifle Italy’s output from midfield, it could go a long way towards deciding the eventual outcome of the Euro 2020 final.
6) Kane’s golden boot requirements and Chiellini battle
Last up on our list of talking points to keep an eye out for at Wembley comes the battle between Harry Kane and Giorgio Chiellini.
The pair have faced off on a number of occasions in the past, both at club and international level, with the latter’s ‘history of Tottenham’ comments having caused quite the stir after Juventus sent Spurs packing from the Champions League back in 2018.
When drawn on his past battles with Chiellini, Kane, for his part, has not been shy in admitting that the Italian is the toughest defender whom he has ever faced off against.
Kane: “I’ve been asked a few times to name the toughest defender I’ve played against & I’ve said Chiellini. I’ve faced him a couple of times. Chiellini is very experienced. He uses his body well & his positioning well. When you try to make runs, he knows when to step across you.” pic.twitter.com/fobFdYsJzl
— JuveFC (@juvefcdotcom) July 28, 2019
If England’s main man does manage to get the better of Italy’s veteran leader this time around, though, it could well see him clinch not only team glory with the Three Lions, but also an individual accolade.
This comes with Kane, as things stand, just a solitary goal adrift of leader Cristiano Ronaldo in the Golden Boot standings. Following a late surge, the Tottenham hitman now has four goals to his name this summer, with CR7 leading the way with five. Crucially, though, the latter also boasts an assist, meaning Kane will need to either find the net twice versus Italy to surpass Ronaldo, or bag a goal and assist to level the Portuguese icon.
(In the case of the latter, however, Kane would seemingly still miss out on the top-scorer prize, having played considerably more minutes than Ronaldo at Euro 2020).